By Jane Smith
Free parking along Atlantic Avenue west of the Intracoastal Waterway is about to become a thing of the past.
Delray Beach city commissioners directed staff to look into installing meters along the avenue to increase turnover for retailers and restaurateurs, especially between Swinton Avenue and the Intracoastal bridge.
“Because the spaces are free, employees park there all day,” said Dale Sugerman, assistant city manager, when presenting a parking management plan to the commission at a mid-June workshop.
Peter Arts, a Downtown Development Authority board member and an insurance broker, said, “Metering Atlantic Avenue would preclude people from parking all day.”
Nine members of the public spoke about the parking plan at the workshop. Eight were for it. Only one was against it.
“Parking meters would devastate the downtown,” said David Cook, owner of Hand’s Office and Arts Supply on Atlantic Avenue. He’s also a former DDA chairman, who termed out of the position.
Commissioners want to see a program that would allow residents to park for free after purchasing passes. That program also would cover seasonal residents.
“It could be a pre-purchase program for the garages and surface lots,” Commissioner Mitch Katz said.
Commissioners also want to see a breakdown of the revenue balanced by the costs of the new parking system, including meters and personnel.
“I want to see revenue versus costs,” said Commissioner Shelly Petrolia. Previous staffers have said, “An army would be needed to make this work.”
Her fellow commissioners agreed that they want to see the options available for the city lots and on side streets before approving the parking management plan. They want to see a range of rates and new hours that the meters will be enforced.
The city has 3,277 parking spaces in the downtown and on the barrier island, Sugerman said.
Smart meters already are installed in the city’s six surface lots on the barrier island and on Atlantic Avenue east of the Intracoastal. The meters, which can take various forms of payment, will be installed along Ocean Boulevard after the beachfront construction is completed in the fall.
The barrier island has a total of 700 spaces, Sugerman said.
Smart meters recently were installed in the city’s two garages, which have 727 spaces. Parking is free there most of the time. The city charges a flat rate of $5 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday after 4 p.m. and during special events.
In June, Lanier Parking Management took over as the parking manager. Its duties include collecting revenue from the meters, issuing citations, staffing the garages and maintaining the meters.
Patrons can download a ParkMobile application that will allow them to pay the meter by using a smart phone. People who downloaded the app reported on social media that it was easy to use.
An employee program did not go over well, according to Sugerman’s report.
Earlier this year, the city worked with the DDA to set up an employee parking program in the South County garage for $20 a month. Parking hours were 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. and a Downtown Roundabout Trolley would provide free rides to the garage.
But no employee passes were purchased, according to the report. Employees said they could park much closer to their job sites for free, were afraid of entering the garage late at night with a day’s tips in their pockets and were inconvenienced by waiting for a trolley.
Commissioners were not interested in setting up an employee parking program. They pointed out that parking is free in the city garages until 4 p.m.
As to the rates, Sugerman told commissioners that no other town charges more than $3 per hour.
Some commissioners want higher rates for Atlantic Avenue.
“We are a hot spot,” Petrolia said. She would like to see the higher rates during weekend night hours for Atlantic Avenue, between Swinton and Northeast/Southeast Fifth avenues.
Mayor Cary Glickstein agreed. “Friday and Saturday nights, when it is impossible to find a space along Atlantic Avenue,” he said, “people should pay for the convenience of parking close to their destinations.”
By Jane Smith